In reading the threads about chicken cannibalism, I wanted to be sure to submit a small section my father wrote (while the Poultry Farm Advisor) here at UC Davis, California.
[As mentioned in the very last line, below, my Dad used to remove about 1/2 - 2/3 of only the top beak of our chickens in our roost to prevent them from pecking each other. I used to wonder about it, as a kid, but now understand the reasoning behind it.]
"Cannibalism, which may get its start from one or more cases of prolapsus, is a serious problem with many flock owners. Since the hen affected with prolapsus will often stand still and, without offering any resistance, allow herself literally to be picked to pieces by her pen mates, it is essential than any such cases be removed as soon as discovered. The start of cannibalism can sometimes be traced to the fact that fowls are too closely confined with nothing to occupy their time and attention. HOPPER FEEDING OF WHOLE OATS HAS BEEN FOUND OF SOME BENEFIT IN PREVENTING CANNIBALISM AMONG HENS.
Rations high in corn, and not properly supplemented, may cause chickens to become nervous and irritable, and thus lead to cannibalism.
Since vent picking often starts while the victim is eating at the feed hopper, it is wise practice to place hoppers either at floor level or high enough so that hens standing at the floor cannot reach to pick those eating from the hopper.
INCREASING THE SALT CONTENT OF THE MASH FOR A FEW DAYS TO AS MUCH AS THREE OR FOUR PERCENT, INSTEAD OF THE NORMAL ONE PERCENT, WILL CURE SOME CASES OF CANNIBALISM. AN ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT IS TO ADD SALT TO THE DRINKING WATER FOR ONE-HALF DAY AT A TIME, ON THREE OR FOUR SUCCESSIVE DAYS, AT THE RATE OF ONE HEAPING TABLESPOONFUL TO EACH GALLON OF WATER.
DEBEAKING (REMOVING A LARGE PORTION OF THE UPPER BEAK) IS NOW COMMONLY ACCEPTED AS THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT CANNIBALISM." - Farm Poultry Production (Wilson-Card)
Edited by FarmersChild - 11/25/12 at 4:54pm